Tuesday, 20 August 2019
Trigger Mortis - Anthony Horowitz
I have got out of sequence with my post-Fleming Bond reboots. I have leapt from the first Gardner to one of the most recent. So what? Trigger Mortis is what I'd been hoping for, a Bond that is as great as the first three Connery movies. Horowitz, one of the most successful contemporary writers of general fiction, is a way better writer than Fleming, as indeed all Fleming's successors are. More importantly, he is a more gifted writer than any of the others, except perhaps Faulkes, who I haven't read. Most importantly, he has chosen to write in period, filling in the gaps, as it were. Trigger Mortis (the title sounds horrible but is in fact brilliant) comes immediately after Goldfinger. Thus we start off with Bond in bed with Pussy Galore. We then plunge headlong into Grand Prix racing at its most dashing and daring (the Nurburgring in 1957). This would have been good enough for many thriller writers but here is only Act One: it introduces the villain, a Korean meglamaniac, and the main plot, which is about the Space Race.
I am very cynical when it comes to Bond. I have already indicated the only movies I care about and it should be noted that I was only nine or ten when I fell asleep in the cinema during Thunderball. I have avoided anything that came after Roger Moore. I read all the Fleming books before I went to see Thunderball. I enjoyed them at the time, but was not a critical reader when only ten and under/ I revisited them perhaps fifteen years ago and was appalled at how bad they are. Fleming himself is interesting but nowhere near as interesting as his brother Peter, a real life adventurer, married to a movie star, and field commander of the British Resistance we never needed in the second World War. Peter was also a better writer, albeit he overwrites in the devil-may-care style popular in the Thirties when he wrote his bestsellers.
I therefore turned to those commissioned by the Estate to keep the cash rolling in. Colonel Sun and Licence to Kill are both reviewed on this blog. It's interesting that Gardner, who kept the franchise going longest, wrote a Moriarty version of Sherlock Holmes, as of course did Horowitz more recently. I preferred the Gardner Moriarity, which, coincidentally, I also read when I was both young and old. But I tell you, Gardner's Bond is not in the same league as Horowitz's. I genuinely cannot remember a thriller so well done, so thrilling that I could not stop reading.
An absolute triumph - a classic of its rather esoteric sub-genre.
Oh ... one last note. Trigger Mortis actually contains original material by Ian Fleming. Don't worry, it's not noticeable. Horowitz must have smartened up any actual writing, and it's only the writing that let Fleming down. The ideas were highly original, even brilliant in their day.